Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the mighty Scarlet Witch wakes from an uneasy sleep - one which brought her little rest. She peers around her room in the guest quarters at the West Coast Avengers Compound, Palos Verdes, California. The room is lit by slatted sunlight and Wanda tries to purge from her mind the haunting half guessed memory of shadowy forms and hushed, anxious voices. One name is at the foremost of her thoughts, the Vision - her android husband! Wanda rises from her bed, and although her husband does not require sleep, in the years since their marriage, the two have made a point of sharing a bed on each night that their turbulent lives have allowed. So to Wanda, the presence of her husband at her side has been a great comfort to her, for she has known little peace in her life.
Wanda dresses quickly, donning her pink and red costume, which has earned her, in part, her code-name. ‘Where can he be? I didn’t hear or feel him getting up’ Wanda thinks to herself. Wanda moves carefully through the guest quarters so as to not indiscriminately point a finger and unleash her mutant hex power, which earns her the other part of her codename.
In the converted sitting room outside Wanda’s bedroom, she finds her twin children, Tommy and Billy, still safely asleep at this early hour. Wanda moves as silent as a dream through the rest of the house - but still there is no trace of the Vision in any of the small, tidy rooms. Stepping outside, the air is cool on her face, though not as cool as she might expect. This is not the first time Wanda has realized that it will take her some time to grow accustomed to the pleasant California climate.
Still no sign of the Vision, Wanda soon hears a familiar sequence of sounds. Wanda knows that means a friend and ally is not far away, so she begins moving swiftly across the sprawling expanse of the Palos Verdes Compound. Shortly, she arrives at the huge outdoor training area, and finds an extraordinary sight - her dear friend and long-time teammate Clint “Hawkeye” Barton, strapped to a whirring training mount which thrashes him about, twisting, turning, spinning, the highly skilled Avenger is not phased - and almost faster than the human eye can follow, he loads and fires his trademark bow - and as the arrow strikes its target, despite the thrashing motion Hawkeye is mounted to, Clint’s aim is every bit as unerring as his title suggests.
However, distracted by the absence of her husband, as well as awestruck with Clint’s skill, Wanda strays a few too many paces into the training area - and a frail, dry twig that she steps on, somehow overlooked by the automated groundskeepers, combines with her distraction to foment - potential disaster - for Hawkeye reacts instinctively to the sound, which he takes to be another target springing into place from the ground, he therefore lets fly his lethal shaft - and as in all things, Clint’s aim does not fail him so the arrow speeds straight towards Wanda’s heart.
Instinctively, Wanda summons her hex power, and probabilities flow like water - the odds against an arrow in flight suddenly losing all forward momentum are on in a million. The odds are now one in one, and the arrow clatters to the ground, landing at Wanda’s feet. ‘Jeez Louise, Wanda! That was too close!’ Clint exclaims as he swings past her, before asking what she is doing out here at this time of the morning. ‘I might ask you the same thing!’ Wanda replies. ‘Er…yeah’ Clint mutters, before explaining that since he and Mockingbird have been on the outs, there hasn’t been too many reasons for him to lie around in bed all day.
Hawkeye swings out of the contraption and points out that Wanda hasn’t answered his question, so he asks her again why she is out and about so early. Wanda reveals that she is looking for the Vision, as he wasn’t in the guest house when she woke up. Wanda tells her friend that she is worried about the Vision, that she can feel something is wrong. Clint tells Wanda to fret no more, and remarks that they didn’t spend “Eleventy skillion” dollars on the world’s most sophisticated communications system for nothing! Clint then opens a channel, ‘Yo, Vision! If you’re within the sound of my voice, give a holler!’ Clint calls out.
Inside the West Coast Compound, Dr. Hank Pym is also awake early, busy in one of the labs, he answers Hawkeye’s call, asking him what is going on. Clint greets Hank before remarking that it looks like they have a whole team full of early risers today, explaining that Wanda is out looking for the Vision, Clint asks Hank if he has seen him. Hank replies that he hasn’t this morning, and that he has just been running a systems check on their mainframe computer, remarking that he had a biostatic analysis running overnight and that the result seems to be off by a few decimal places, when suddenly, Hank hears a strange sound from Hawkeye’s side of the communication.
Hank makes his way through the sprawling complex, deciding that the sound was no ordinary communications blowout, suspecting that something zapped the transponder at Clint’s end, meaning Wanda and Clint are in trouble. Entering an elevator, Hank tells himself that he never realized how slow the turbo lifts can seem when you’re in a hurry. Rushing out of the elevator, Hank wonders why the alarms have not sounded, and supposes that the others are asleep, he wonders whether or not to alert them manually, but decides against it until he can see what is happening outside.
But as Hank reaches the patio and makes his way to the training grounds, ‘NO! It can’t be! ULTRON!’ Hank shouts. Indeed, Hank’s creation is attacking the Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye, unleashing blasts of energy at them, Wanda cries out that Ultron is not stopping and that he has neutralized her hex power. ‘Tell me about it, babe!’ Clint replies, ‘I might as well be firing toothpicks at that adamantium shell of his!’.
Meanwhile…the jungle is like none on Earth. The coiling plants are soft and sleek, their flesh like the flesh of man. The breezes that touch the flanks of the big stripped cat with an unusually large mop of hair on its head are like hands caressing its fur. The scents that ride them as the cat stalks through the jungle are insidious, intoxicating. The cat is not deterred, and unerringly, stalks its prey. A large blue deer is several meters ahead, quite unaware of the cats approach - until the cat strikes, bursting forward, the attack is ruthless, merciless - and the killing is made all more terrible since it comes not from a need for food.
It is for sport…for fun - but the large cat ripping into the blue deer fades…as it is only a dream - and Greer Grant Nelson a.k.a. Tigra, the were woman wakes, her mouth stuffed full of feathers from the pillow that she has just destroyed. ‘Oh wow! That was too intense! Too real!’ Tigra tells herself, realizing that she can still feel the bloodlust in her veins, can still taste the flesh of the alien creature. Tigra is indeed troubled, for this is not the first time, and reminds herself that the dream has been building, growing richer in detail, in texture, for weeks now. ‘I wonder…is it time I told the others? Asked them for help?’ she ponders, when her thoughts are suddenly interrupted by a massive boom.
Tigra races from her bungalow, and on the way meets Janet van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp, who she asks what the noise was. Greer notices also that Janet is flying from the direction of Hank’s bungalow, which she finds interesting, as the Wasp was apparently staying in the big house. Jan replies that she doesn’t know what the noise was, before remarking that it came in the direction of the training area, and motions to the smoke rising over the trees, which Simon “Wonder Man” Williams, who joins them, exclaims is likely to be a whole lot of trouble that they have got, ‘Unless this is somebody’s idea of a wake-up call!’
Janet tells Simon to fly on ahead and reconnoiter, to which Simon replies he was just going to do that, and as he does, tells himself that it seems the Wasp isn’t entirely used to the idea that she is no longer Avengers Chairman, ‘She barked out that command like she was Captain America!’ Simon arrives at the battle scene in an instant, ‘Oh, brother - Ultron!’ he exclaims, thinking to himself that he was hoping they had seen the last of him, before calling out to the deadly villain, ‘Okay chrome-dome, I don’t know what your game is this time…but it stops here!’ Simon warns him.
‘Fool!’ Ultron shouts back, ‘Have you so soon forgotten my power?’ he asks, before giving Simon a reminder as he strikes the powerful Avenger hard with a deadly blast, smashing Simon into a large tree. Simon gathers himself while deciding that he was hit with some kind of magnetic blast, which he doesn’t recall Ultron having a power like that before, so Ultron must have upgraded his arsenal. Simon tells Ultron that he made a good move, before declaring that while they are on the subject of forgetting things, ‘It seems like you must’ve dropped a few bytes along the way!’ Simon then flies over towards Ultron, ‘Or have you forgotten why they call me Wonder Man?’ he asks as his near-indestructible fists strike Ultron’s steel form like the clappers of a great bell - the sound that reverberates across the California hills has the ominous tones of a death knell!
Hawkeye calls out to Wonder Man, ‘Way to go!’ he shouts, while boasting that they will show the walking scrap pile that he is messing with the wrong heroes. Hank tells Clint that his sentiments are brave, but that they don’t want to be betrayed by overconfidence, reminding him that Ultron has had them on the ropes before Wonder Man arrived, and that there is still a chance of him turning the tables again. But even as Hank speaks those dark words, Wanda thinks to herself ‘The Vision missing…now Ultron!’ and her mind begins travelling with the speed of light - back across the great abyss of Time and Space - half a century ago, to an even set in the laboratory of Professor Phineas Horton - an event with all the earmarks of legend!
(Shown with various flashback images)
‘Your android looks as human as any of us, Professor! Why do you keep him in that glass cage?’ a scientist asks the esteemed Professor Horton, who replies that there was a miscalculation in the android’s creation, and tells the others to observe what happens when he introduces a small amount of oxygen into the cylinder - ‘Great guns! He’s burst into flame!’ another scientist exclaims as indeed, the android turns to flame.
As Wanda knows, the blazing android soon learned to control his flame - and became known to the world as the original Human Torch! The Human Torch, for a brief handful of turbulent years, served alongside the greatest heroes of his age - Captain America and the Sub-Mariner, known as the Invaders, alongside their sidekicks Bucky and Toro.
But, nearly a decade after his time of glory, there came a day where his unstable chemistry began to catch up with him, where his flame began to burn out of his control. To protect the world he had championed, the Human Torch fled to the far desert, and there attempted to exhaust his power in one last sunburst of human flame. Insensate, he plunged to the hard embrace of the waiting desert floor.
What followed, was a dreamless time of darkness. No thought disturbed his artificial intellect. No emotions stirred his man-made heart - until one day, the darkness fell away - and he looked into this face…’I am the Thinker! I am your master!’ the insane villain cried - and the Human Torch flared once more!
But, the world had changed while the Torch slept, and there was now another who bore his title, a foe of the villainous Thinker - Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four. And with the original Human Torch’s memories not fully restored, he found himself in battle with his youthful counterpart. The battle did not last long though, and the original Human Torch learned the evil nature of his “master”, and allied with the famous Fantastic Four, he returned to confront the Thinker - only to be felled by the treachery of his savior. ‘He’s been affected by the heat of his own flame!’ Johnny Storm said at the time, ‘He’s blazing beyond control!’ Mr Fantastic explained that it was the one infallible method of destroying a flaming android.
The Thinker used the Human Torch’s destruction to make his own escape, and the Torch was left in a lab, despite the Thing’s suggestion that they cannot leave him here, ‘Shouldn’t he get a burial or something?’ but Mr. Fantastic replied that “dust to dust” didn’t apply to the original Human Torch: ‘He was born in a lab, so this is a more fitting final resting place.
And so there the original Human Torch lay…unchanging as outside his silent tomb the weeks and months marched by…until: ‘He is here! Just as the Thinker said he would be!’ Ultron exclaimed as he claimed the Torch’s lifeless body.
Memories of Ultron-5 bring Wanda’s thoughts full circle, to find that the battle has progressed while her mind travelled through years of past. Ultron blasts Wonder Man into the air, while Hawkeye aims his bow and arrow at the powerful robot, exclaiming that he cannot get a clear shot, as the Wasp is flitting about too close to Ultron. Hank calls out to the Wasp, asking her to fall back, as she cannot hurt Ultron. ‘Maybe not, Hank…but my Wasp’s sting can keep him off guard!’ Janet replies as she blasts Ultron, giving Wonder Man time to gather himself, and get another punch in.
Hawkeye motions to Ultron, pointing out that he staggered, to which Hank exclaims that this is working too well, although he has an idea, and walks over to the battle, calling out to Wonder Man. ‘Can it wait, Doc? I’m kinda busy just at the moment!’ Simon replies. Hank replies that he can see that, before announcing that he was a way to end this fight, and fast. Tigra slinks by as Wonder Man asks what that is, only for Dr. Pym to bombard him with Pym Particles, and Simon instantly begins to shrink. ‘What the heck?’ Wonder Man asks from the ground. ‘You used your shrinking power on me! WHY?’ Simon calls out, before flying up to Hank’s face.
Hank informs Simon that the answer will be immediately obvious in about twelve seconds - ‘Right after you fly straight down Ultron’s throat!’ Simon is shocked by this, and replies that he could get trapped inside Ultron’s indestructible casing, to which Hank assures him that he will not, and asks him to just do it. Simon flies towards Ultron, ‘Okay, but if I end up as part of some printed circuit…I’m gonna be real peeved!’. Steering himself against the inferno he must now face, Wonder Man plunges toward Ultron’s gaping mouth, and finds the entry not guarded by atomic flame, but be a considerably less lethal display.
Simon wonders what gives, as he passed the furnace in Ultron’s mouth without even feeling it. ‘I know my skin is tough, but - hold it!’ Simon’s train of thought is distracted as he notices something around him in Ultron’s body beginning to happen, Simon assumes that the twelve seconds Hank mentioned must nearly be up, and realizes that his body is growing at a rapid pace. ‘Not too long now and it’s going to be a real tight squeeze in here…which is probably just what Hank had in mind!’ Simon realizes as his body returns to its regular size, and rips apart Ultron in the process.
‘Perfect Simon! Just perfect!’ Hank exclaims as everyone gathers around the remains of Ultron’s destroyed form. Hank reveals that when he noticed the amount of damage that Simon’s punches were inflicting on Ultron, he knew that this couldn’t be the real Ultron. Simon understands now, and points out that Ultron’s adamantium shell would have never dented, before asking why they didn’t realize it straight away.
Hank replies that it was probably preconditioning, explaining that they were all so busy fighting what appeared to be a familiar foe, they all saw what they expected to see, after all, he adds, the robot looked, sounded and acted like the genuine article. Janet points out that they were so caught up in the blaze of battle, and adds that she is glad she’s only half an inch long so no one can see how red her face is. Wanda then asks why anyone would send a false Ultron against them in the first place. Hank replies that to distract them would seem the most obvious. ‘To keep us here, while something is going on elsewhere’. Hank then asks his friends to forgive the rather poor humor, before exclaiming ‘Avengers disassemble!’ and orders them to search the Compound.
The Avengers scatter, but while the beautiful Scarlet Witch begins her part of the search, her thoughts turn again towards the Vision. ‘Can this have something to do with his being gone?’ she wonders, recalling what he recently learned from Immortus…
(Shown with Flashback illustrations)
‘As Master of Time, I can show you your past, Vision!’ Immortus told Wanda’s android husband, before sending him back through Time and Space to observe the past with the aid of a telepathic syncho-staff, where he was able to observe as an intangible phantom the moments of his own beginning.
The Vision watched as Professor Phineas Horton was reunited with the motionless Human Torch, whom Ultron-5 had brought to a hidden lab, before seeking out the man who had created the Human Torch so long ago. ‘He is mine now, Horton! And once you assist me in brining him back to life…he will be mine for all eternity!’ Ultron proclaimed. Wanda thinks to herself that it is strange how when the Vision first told the Avengers of his genesis, he only spoke of Ultron-5’s involvement, yet as Immortus revealed, Ultron simply stood by while Professor Horton did all the work.
‘Why do you want a new face for him, Ultron?’ Horton asked. ‘Because he must have a completely new life, divorced entirely from his days as a hero!’ Ultron responded. The Vision could only watch the pattern unfolding before him, as the brain patterns of a then-dead man - Wonder Man - were grafted into his synthetic brain. ‘I am certain this computer tape I discovered among Henry Pym’s effects will serve as a model!’ Ultron said as the brain patterns of Simon Williams were placed into the Vision - and thus, the android who had been the Human Torch became the synthezoid soon called the Vision!
‘Welcome to the world of the living, you who will know but a half-life!’ is how Ultron greeted his “son”, introducing himself as Ultron-5, ‘But you may call me master!’. ‘Yes, master!’ the former Human Torch replied, before, as an innocent dupe of an evil force, being sent to destroy the Avengers, and at their first encounter, it was the Wasp who gave him his new name - ‘No - No! It’s some sort of unearthly, inhuman Vision!’ she cried.
However, free from Ultron-5’s evil thrall, the Vision was ultimately made a member of the Avengers, and Wanda recalls that it was some months after that when she met her future android husband….
Wanda stands on a cliffside, looking out over the ocean, she tells herself that so many years have passed since all that happened, but that it seems like only yesterday. ‘And now the Vision is gone - and I know something is terribly wrong. He would never have left me without -’ her thoughts are interrupted as the communications console nearby goes off, and Hank calls out to Wanda. Wanda goes over to the screen, ‘What is it? You look…’ she begins, until Hank replies that it is the Vision. ‘You’ve found him? Where is he? Is he all right?’ Wanda asks. A solemn Hank replies that it would be better if he told her this face to face.
Shortly, Wanda arrives in the main assembly chamber, where her teammates have gathered, and as she enters, asks what is going on, and where her husband is. ‘He’s…gone, Wanda’ Hank announces, only for Wanda to grab the top of his jumpsuit and shake him, ‘What? What do you mean “He’s gone”?’ she asks, exclaiming ‘I know he’s gone, I thought you were going to tell me -’ suddenly, Clint interrupts Wanda, calmly telling her that she doesn’t understand. ‘Tell her, Hank’ Clint exclaims.
Hank informs Wanda that when he realized the false Ultron was probably a diversionary tactic, he recalled the glitch that he detected in his biostatic program this morning. Motioning to the console, he explains that he came back here and finished the systems check, and what he found was what he feared - ‘Someone has introduced a highly sophisticated computer virus into our system!’ Hank announces, adding that his program was inaccurate because the virus interrupted it to check for data.
‘Data? What data?’ Wanda asks. ‘The Vision, Wanda’ Hank replies, announcing that the virus has erased all trace of the Vision from their files - everything they know about him, every report he filed, it’s all gone. ‘And there’s more!’ Hank reveals, before explaining that he checked with their East Coast teammates, and that the same thing has happened at their end also. Hank explains that the virus introduced here has apparently been transmitted into every computer the link with - which includes SHIELD, the Pentagon and the Fantastic Four - and in all those systems, all trace of the Vision has been obliterated.
‘But…but that’s mad! Insane!’ Wanda exclaims, asking who could do such a thing, and now. Hank frowns as he replies ‘That’s the worst part - for this to have happened means somebody got in through our defensive network. Somebody got past all our alarms, all our codes…everything!’ The Wasp points out that to do that, the culprit would have to be one of them. Clint frowns as he remarks that one of the Avengers has turned traitor. ‘But who?’ he asks. Suddenly, a new voice is heard in the room. ‘Is that really so hard to guess, Hawk?’.
‘Oh…no…!’ Hawkeye whispers, before he and everyone else turns to the doorway to see the culprit. ‘What’s the matter, lover? Aren’t you pleased to see your little wifey again?’. ‘Mockingbird!’ everyone shouts as they look at the smug Barbara Morse Barton….